The majority of premature twins develop at different times, making the transition from the NICU stay to their home an emotionally jarring experience for mommy and daddy.
As I sit here and write about our experience last year with our twins, Noah and Nikoh, it’s still surreal to relive all of the emotions attached to having our newborn twins separated for 10 days.
Nikoh was discharged from the NICU on April 28, 2014, 34 days after he was born. His twin brother, Noah, went home 10 days before him. The separation anxiety my husband and I felt from having one baby at home with us, and our other baby in the NICU was intense. It felt like our hearts were literally ripped into two pieces, as cliché as that may sound. (I’ve talked about this in previous blogs; how we experienced emotional highs and lows simultaneously because our twins developed at different stages.)
As new parents to preemie twins, we learned a lot while parenting in the NICU. Everyday was a new obstacle. Our babies’ discharge days were no different.
When it was Noah’s turn to “graduate” from the NICU and go home, the neonatologist and nurses told me I should stay home and give him just about all of my devotion, in order to make sure he continued to thrive (Read more about Noah’s discharge from the NICU in my previous post.) In my mind and heart I thought to myself, “Are you serious? How will I stay away from Nikoh?” Noah was barely 4 pounds. He was so tiny, so fragile and I was PETRIFIED every time I had to change his diaper, change his clothes, feed him, etc. I handled him with the utmost caution. Yes I had been doing all of this since he was born, but he had been a NICU preemie so there were nurses who helped me handle him in the hospital so I felt more at ease. At home we didn’t have the comfort of the NICU monitors telling us Noah was breathing OK, eating OK, sleeping OK, etc. So at home our stress levels were at an all-time high. But although I was occupied with Noah, my mind and heart were constantly thinking about Nikoh, who was still battling it out in the NICU…predominately by himself. We still didn’t have an exact date as to when he would go home, so being away from him made the waiting game SO much more intense than when Noah and Nikoh were side-by-side in the NICU.
Nikoh was “Baby B” – born second and although he weighed a few more ounces than Noah when they were born, he was always a little weaker and less developed than Noah. Since he was born I often refer to Nikoh as “the dark horse.” Because although he would sometimes fall behind in his progress, there were days where he would come out of nowhere and essentially “catch up.” Nikoh had to stay in the NICU those 10 extra days because he needed more time to reach his NICU milestones before he could come home. One of his biggest obstacles was learning to tolerate his 24 hour feedings. Essentially he had to feed for 24 hours, and his body had to accept the amount of ounces the nurses set for him every two hours. Sometimes he would lack the energy to complete his feedings, sometimes he would fall asleep, and sometimes the breast milk wouldn’t digest properly in his tiny stomach…so it took him awhile to be able to achieve the 24 hour completion of feedings. He also needed a blood transfusion for an infection he developed in the NICU which also set him back a couple of days. It was frustrating to see him take one step forward, and two steps back. He was a lone warrior during those 10 days, and he made me, his daddy and his twin brother Noah SUPER proud.
I would call to check on Nikoh several times a day, asked the nurses to tell him his mommy loved and missed him. I also got a detailed report about Nikoh’s progress from my husband who visited him every night after work for those 10 days. I was only able to visit him a handful of times. I left Noah either with my mom, or my sister, a handful of times while I visited Nikoh for a few hours, and on Easter we decided we had to spend their first holiday with both of them. So my parents spent Easter at our house with Noah, and gave my husband and I the chance to spend half of the day in the NICU with Nikoh. Being their first actual holiday, in true twin style, we dressed them exactly the same and made sure to take their Easter picture. In the NICU my husband and I spent Easter kangarooing with Nikoh, although I held him most of the time since I hadn’t seen him very much. We fed him, changed him, and did all of the things new parents typically get to in the comfort of their homes on their baby’s first holiday. When we got home, we spent the rest of the night taking care of, cuddling and loving Noah.
Although we were thankful to be able to spend time with both of our babies on Easter, it was heartbreaking to leave Nikoh in the hospital that night.
(Nikoh in the NICU on Easter 2014)
(Noah at home on Easter 2014)
Those 10 days felt like an eternity. But we made it and most importantly, Nikoh made it through like a little warrior.
His discharge day kind of “just happened,” all of a sudden, on a day we least expected it. Much like the day Noah was discharged. The thing that is so weird about having a baby, or in our case babies, in the NICU is that from the second they are born you want to take them home so bad. While they are in the NICU you spend every waking minute cheering them on, praying and hoping for their discharge day. But then it comes and all of a sudden you start second guessing, “Are they really OK to come home? Are they strong enough? Will they be OK? Should they stay a couple more days in the NICU? Will I be able to give them the care they need?”
In all honesty it’s the biggest emotional roller coaster I had ever been on..and there is nothing you can do, or anyone can say, to prepare you for all of the emotions, all of the highs and lows, that come with being a NICU parent. It’s terrifying and beautiful at all the same time.
But when the NICU journey is over, you come out of it a stronger person and hands down a stronger, more-prepared PARENT…
Nikoh’s last moments in the NICU felt less emotional to me than Noah’s final day there. I still cried, but all of my tears were out of happiness. I was ECSTATIC to walk out of the NICU knowing my babies NEVER had to spend one more night away from me and their daddy. But on Noah’s last day I cried so much out of sadness because we had to leave Nikoh there, and so when it was finally his turn to go home ALL of the tears were out of sheer joy!
Nikoh had been moved out of the NICU into an “overflow” NICU nursery a few days before he was discharged. Since he was close to graduation and the NICU was filling up fast with new preemies, his nurses felt he was strong enough to have less observation. So although he was still monitored by NICU nurses and doctors, when he was discharged he wasn’t in the actual NICU. And because of that, he didn’t have the type of emotional “send-off” that Noah had. The nurses didn’t come say bye to him (except for the two that had been monitoring him in the overflow nursery), and we didn’t have any family waiting in the lobby to meet him. But it was still the best day of our life, as was Noah’s discharge day. As the nurse wheeled him to the car, I walked alongside his crib and stared at him in amazement. He had gone through so much, and while we were by his side for most of it, a lot of his work in the NICU was done on his own. Tears streamed down my cheeks as I approached the hospital’s exit. We had literally lived there since March 26, 2014 and now it was time to go home and not look back.
(Nikoh was placed in his car seat and wheeled out to our car.)
When I found out I was pregnant, I NEVER even though about premature birth and I knew very little about it. It’s incredible how something you never think about can end up having such a tremendous impact on your life.
Although my babies are now home and thriving at 10 months old – 8 months adjusted age – they will ALWAYS be premature twins and likely always have to work a little bit harder at reaching developmental milestones. And just like in the NICU my husband and I will be there every moment of their life to help them achieve every dream and every feat, big and small.
XO~ Noah & Nikoh’s Mommy